On the dangers of fare abuse

The quickest and simplest way to do this is to catch a train from Gatwick Airport railway station in the terminal to East Croydon and then London Bridge, followed by another train to South Bermondsey, the nearest station to my home. A single ticket for this journey costs £14.60, a fare I find to be a bit steep. Knowing the fare system reasonably well, I instead purchased a ticket to East Croydon,  the first station inside Greater London at which the train stopped. For this,  I paid £4.50. I then used my Oyster Card – the contactless ticketing system that Londoners use for most of their public transport journeys within London –  to get to South Bermondsey. This was charged using the zone based fare system that applies within London, and cost me £2.20. I was thus able to reduce the cost of the journey by more than 50%.

D’ye think the railway unions will hire Ritchie to write reports about this?

30 thoughts on “On the dangers of fare abuse”

  1. Sounds like fare evasion by exploitation of a loophole. Why won’t he pay his fare share according to the spirit of the law?

  2. 11 years ago, I caught a bus in Waikiki. It had SEVEN different fares posted.

    The age of egalitarian society is over.

  3. What abacab said. Sure the intent of the travel authorities is clear? That some traveling between the points mentioned should pay £14-60. Anyone managing to game the system and pay less is definitely a fare avoider. It involves a number of artificial actions solely designed to reduce the fare payable no less! Somebody inform the Guardian and UKUncut asap!!!!

  4. Surreptitious Evil

    Sure the intent of the travel authorities is clear?

    No, it’s the result of a clearly (and possibly deliberately) buggered up system which is designed to (from Gatwick) channel people to the Gatwick Express, the fact that the train companies are all in competition and that fares within London need to be based around TFL charges. It is carefully designed to milk the innocent, people in a rush and those who simply cannot be arrsed to work out how to game the system.

  5. Every company that I’ve worked for in recent years has a travel policy that positively encourages “ticket splitting” where practical. Indeed, I’ve known some cost centre managers go apeshit if their staff don’t do it and here’s why: A journey that I do regularly is Bristol to Paddington and if you buy tickets from Bristol to Didcot, and then Didcot to Paddington, you save around £85 on a peak return trip. Not bad for an extra ten minutes work.

  6. @”Every company that I’ve worked for in recent years has a travel policy that positively encourages “ticket splitting” where practical. Indeed, I’ve known some cost centre managers go apeshit if their staff don’t do it and here’s why: A journey that I do regularly is Bristol to Paddington and if you buy tickets from Bristol to Didcot, and then Didcot to Paddington, you save around £85 on a peak return trip. Not bad for an extra ten minutes work.”
    I love to know why that it is. Are people in Didcot so poor/clever that they will not pay more than £x for a train ?journey

  7. I suspect that ticket splitting is probably illegal. It’s been 10 years since I lived in the UK, but istr that you are supposed to have one ticket for your complete journey. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    The fact that ticket splitting can work is that the train fares are determined by a computer channeling Franz Kafka. How else can you explain that a 1 month return sometimes costs more than 2 singles?

  8. Traveling by a roundabout route is sometimes cheaper as well . A friend who worked for BT used to travel on occasion from Shrewsbury to London, not as might be expected, via Birmingham but via Crewe, which was longer but cheaper. This was management policy too apparently.

    I’m not sure whether this sort of thing is legal or not, I suspect that with the complex system of advance fares and on line purchase now it would be very hard to make a case against it. There was a case a few years back where someone was prosecuted, by GNER I think, for buying a ticket to a point beyond his destination where the train didn’t stop because it cost less. Apparently the precedent for the illegality of that dates back to the 19th century, although I’m afraid I can’t recall the details.

  9. @ITBoy, there was another story a while back of a line going to Southampton costing more for alighting at earlier stops than going all the way to S’ton. So people bought tickets to S’ton and got off earlier. If caught, they were fined.

    Ticketing policy makes no sense to me whatsoever, frankly. It’s That Kafka Again.

  10. @ITBoy, there was another story a while back of a line going to Southampton costing more for alighting at earlier stops than going all the way to S’ton. So people bought tickets to S’ton and got off earlier. If caught, they were fined.

    This is daft. One is specifically allowed to break a journey, ie exit a station on route, and then recommence that journey from the same point.

    Hence, ignoring the fact that the whole thing is bonkers anyway, how can one be fined for “breaking the journey”. The inspector would have needed advance knowledge that you you did not at some stage (in the future) recommence that journey..!!

  11. Which does make me wonder (as raised by a commenter on the Economist about this situation) whether a train company would ever argue that not using the return leg of a ticket (say due to getting a lift back) is a simialr breach and pursue you for the full fare single cost

  12. Which does make me wonder (as raised by a commenter on the Economist about this situation) whether a train company would ever argue that not using the return leg of a ticket (say due to getting a lift back) is a simialr breach and pursue you for the full fare single cost.

    Didn’t the Channel Tunnel try a scam like that with their cheap day tickets? It was cheaper to get the daily return (and not use the return leg) than buy their cheapest single.

  13. @PF – yes, Channel Tunnel are quite insistent that you use both halves of the ticket, and reserve the right to fine you if you don’t.

  14. As they are putting Oyster card readers at Gatwick soon this won’t be a problem soon.

    Southern Trains run the Gatwick express and will always try and sell you the more expensive Gatwick Express ticket to tourists (even when they are buying it on a normal Southern service).

  15. David,

    I love to know why that it is. Are people in Didcot so poor/clever that they will not pay more than £x for a train ?journey

    It’s about entering Network South East, which is considered as a commuter journey, where Bristol to London is Inter City.

    No, it makes no sense to me either. But it’s why at peak time, I drive to Hungerford and get the train from there.

  16. @abacab – GTFO! I can believe you – any idea if they’ve ever done it?
    I can see the spin as “You’re paying for the flexibility to disembark where you like”, but it does bring a picture to mind of them knocking on your door and compelling you to get on the train

  17. David, tim
    Bristol to Paddington is the commute between 2 Orange offices. That’s an easy segment to fleece.

  18. Ticket splitting isn’t widely publicised by those who would otherwise protect passenger interest for fear that TOCs might clamp down if it became more widespread. There’s an uneasy alliance there

  19. Don’t know how things work today but 20 years ago enforcement was pretty toothless. I was on a return journey oop North after attending a seminar in Cambridge. The ticket office in Cambridge explicitly told us that since our return route was closed travel via an alternate route was still valid on the same ticket. Ticket inspector on the train tried to get us to stump up for a new ticket. No dice, said we, send us a formal letter; here’s our addresses. They did, we binned them unopened and after three tries they gave up.

  20. There are a few routes out of London on which Oyster prepay can be used. The number is gradually increasing, depending on the feelings of the particular train company towards Oyster and the ease of incorporating the route into the Oyster system, which was designed more with zone based fares in mind rather than the point to point fares that are usual inside London. On the other hand, if they were to put them in at Gatwick, they would have to simplify the fare structure a lot, as there are so many different fares to that airport. (Southern Only, First Capital Connect Only, Any train excluding Gatwick Express, Any train including Gatwick Express, etc etc etc).

  21. As I understand it, the train companies are legally obliged to offer the cheapest available ticket:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2449710/Commuter-discovered-season-ticket-loophole-saved-700-year-wins-legal-battle-train-company-tried-GAG-him.html

    Many years ago when we still lived in blighty (2000ish) I was traveling from Beverley to Sheffield. The conductor told me he’d give me two tickets, Beverley-Meadowhall and Meadowhall-Sheffield as there was a sale fare to Meadowhall so it would be cheaper.

    I’d have thought Meadowhall was helping to fund the sale fares but the conductor still considered himself obliged to offer me the cheapest fare even though I was not heading to Meadowhall.

  22. So Much For Subtlety

    The last time I had to go to from London to Edinburgh on short notice, I paid so much it would have been cheaper to fly. I thought about breaking the trip just to see if it was cheaper. The question would be where to do it. Assuming I ever have to do it again.

    Any suggestions?

  23. “So Much For Subtlety says:
    The last time I had to go to from London to Edinburgh on short notice, I paid so much it would have been cheaper to fly. I thought about breaking the trip just to see if it was cheaper. The question would be where to do it. Assuming I ever have to do it again.
    Any suggestions?”

    There is an app for phones called TicketySplit which is pretty good.

  24. Easyjet will only charge you £50-60 return for London-Edinburgh anyway. It’s usually cheaper to fly even when it is not short notice and/or you can find a reasonable train fare.

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